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Refunds offered to 9,000 North Dakota deer hunters due to disease outbreak

Refunds offered to 9,000 North Dakota deer hunters due to disease outbreak

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White-tailed deer

White-tailed deer spotted in Theodore Roosevelt National Park's South Unit on Nov. 7, 2017.

North Dakota's Game and Fish Department is offering license refunds to more than 9,000 deer hunters due to an outbreak of disease in western North Dakota.

State wildlife officials in August began documenting deer deaths due to epizootic hemorrhagic disease -- commonly called EHD.

"Loss of deer to this disease appears to have extended into October and covers a large area of western North Dakota,” said Bruce Stillings, big game supervisor for the department.

Compiling hard data on case numbers is difficult because most of the evidence is anecdotal from landowners, but the department has received more than 100 reports, according to state Wildlife Chief Jeb Williams.

The agency is offering refunds to hunters with whitetail licenses in 12 hunting units in the southwest and west central regions of the state: 3D1, 3D2, 3E1, 3E2, 3F1, 3F2, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E and 4F. There are "moderate to significant" deer losses in those units, according to Stillings. Large areas of some affected units had no reports of deaths, however, and Game and Fish encourages hunters to check with people in their hunting area to find out the extent of mortality.

“The whitetail population has not been decimated, and in many areas a good harvest is still needed,” Stillings said. 

EHD has been present in North Dakota for decades. It impacts white-tailed deer more than mule deer, due to the makeup of the animals. It’s not considered a danger to people.

The viral disease is transmitted by biting gnats. The insects can become a problem if wet conditions early in the year create mud flats that dry out later in the year -- perfect breeding areas for the insects. Outbreaks end only after a hard freeze kills off the gnats.

“Fortunately, the current weather pattern is colder-than-average temperatures with below-freezing conditions during the night, which will likely end this year’s outbreak," Stillings said.

The last similar outbreak in the region was in 2011, when deer deaths also occurred into October and prompted Game and Fish to offer refunds to more than 13,000 hunters with whitetail tags in 11 units. Only about 300 hunters actually requested refunds, according to Williams. A regular deer gun license costs $30. Williams does not expect a big impact to the department's budget from any refunds this year.

The state Game and Fish Department made available 69,050 licenses for white-tailed deer and mule deer in 2020. The gun season begins at noon on Nov. 6 and runs through Nov. 22.

White-tailed deer license holders who want a refund must mail their tag, along with a note requesting a refund due to EHD, to the Game and Fish Department’s Bismarck office no later than Nov. 5. Envelopes postmarked that day will be accepted. The agency's address is 100 N. Bismarck Expressway, Bismarck, ND 58501-5095.

 

Reach Blake Nicholson at 701-250-8266 or blake.nicholson@bismarcktribune.com.

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